Musings on right, power, and ideology 


5-may-2009
consider an arrangement in a hierarchical system. there is clearly a concentration of power or wealth in progress. typically, if someone is getting more than he's giving, he tends not to object to the arrangement. if he's giving more than he's getting, he might object. But, the next big issue arises here: if he objects, what then? In practical reality, there is no way for him alone to opt out of the arrangement that works to his disadvantage. So, then, does he voice his dissent, seek to convince others to end the arrangement that is injuring him? Clearly any action that threatens the arrangement will arouse vigilance and opposition from those who benefit from the arrangement. Often, those who most vigorously defend such arrangements are the ones who function essentially as managers and middlemen - usually we call them politicians - who derive not only material advantage from their position in charge of the arrangement, but also derive status, authority, power, and social importance over their fellow men from such a position. People can be motivated by many things, and status and power are hardly the least of them. So, when our unhappy fellow, feeling that he is being exploited unfairly, disagrees with the arrangement in question, and tries to voice his dissent, he is now a clear and obvious threat to all which makes those politicians so important, and to that which fills their pockets besides. There is no intelligent reason why those politicians would risk tolerating such opposition, especially if there are many others whose dissent would be emboldened by hearing other voices shout out the same grievances. No, those politicians would rationally seek to silence dissent as swiftly and absolutely as was practicable, and to do so without arousing any more attention from those around as was absolutely necessary. Motivation, appearance, moral justification, these things are all highly important in the battle of perception which holds the first line of defence against those who feel indignant that they are being exploited and that they have no voice in the matter. So, when an arrangement like this enters into practice, the moment some people begin to disagree with the arrangement, the politicians are beset by a threat, potential at first and later usually real, to their nice arrangement. The moment any dissent is stifled, the pleasant facade is removed and all the terminology of morally superior ideology blows away in the wind. The real picture transforms rapidly into one where those with the power are set against those they rule. No matter if the battle remains in the realm of psychological warfare or propaganda or manipulation, or if it quickly devolves to bloodshed- the moment dissent is resisted or silenced, the real name of the relationship is tyranny. Tyranny turns free men into fugitives, for their very freedom is in opposition to the continued power of the elites, to the politicians. Huge efforts are spent by tyrants to obscure the basic reality of the relationship, because those who know they have an enemy tend to put up more resistance, try to organize, try to fight, while those who do not know they have an enemy, or who are confused as tho who their enemy is, are defeated with much less effort and difficulty. It is only basic good sense on the part of the elites to seek to deceive the people as much as possible as to the nature of the relationship. If they don't understand that they have an enemy, they cannot possibly fight. To rule with a lie is the most efficient form of tyranny ever discovered. To rule with force from the beginning has always been difficult and uncertain. The techniques of such distraction or deception are myriad, but all of them have in common the basic feature that they must substitute falsehood for truth. They have the further common trait that they are vulnerable to exposure, and thus the truth must be hidden as much as possible lest it be even by chance discovered and the official lie esposed. The greater the lie and the greater the shock when exposed, the more those who sold the lie have to fear its exposure. It does not take a mind of brilliant wisdom to understand that in order to protect the lie, not only must the truth be stifled, but unending vigilance must be exercised always to be on the lookout for any potential threat to the official lie, and if the truth is ever discovered anywhere, that people be unable to communicate it rapidly- or if they do, to identify as quickly as possible and neutralize those who have been 'infected' by the truth. Thus it is the logical progression for such a regime to try to monitor and control all communication between people. Again, arousing suspicion about the official lie in any way is a dangerous threat to the lie, so that it is also risky to let anyone see or understand that efforts are being taken to protect the lie. So, new lies have to be made to cover these activities in a way that will distract or obscure people's attention from their nature. This is why throughout history, governments, regimes, etc, have always sought to operate in as much secrecy as possible. Even the agents of the regime itself are often kept in the dark as much as possible, because they represent a potential risk of exposing even a small amount of truth that calls any of the official lies into question. The ability of a regime founded on lies to survive, then, depends critically on protecting an ever growing body of lies from being discovered or the truth from being communicated. It depends critically on surveillance and monitoring of everything, and on its own agents operating in secret or under the cover of yet more lies. If a regime fails to maintain its lies, then it must fall back on force. Here the goal is essentially the same but the opposition at least know it is fighting. Few regimes have lasted very long upon entering this condition. In most cases there is always a bit of perception at play in the mix. In simpler societies it tends to be about personalities, about intentions and motivations, and is much more amenable to reconciliation, whether or not sincere, than it is in more complex societies. In complex societies with large machinery rule and large structures of power, much less of perception can be manipulated simply with communicating personal human emotions, and much more relies on creating alternate realities in which people are expected to behave a certain way. In most successful examples the regime manages to compartmentalize different aspects of the alternate reality, so that they might remain valid in peoples minds even if other aspects of the alternate reality are esposed- It is a much more robust way to maintain a lie if one lie can still be maintained when another falls. Doing this usually requires a degree of conditioning of the very way people think about things, to help them keep a compartmentalization in their own minds and analyse different subject matter or different situations against different sets of standards and different kinds of scrutiny. To construct a body of ways of thinking about things, which renders the various lies each more resistant to exposure by influencing the very way people think about them, is thus a high refinement on the basic strategy of ruling through lies- and history has given us ample demonstration of such a strategy at work with stunning success. We have a word for such a body of ways of thinking about things- we call it an ideology. Ideology, thus, complements the regime's corpus of lies and alternate reality, by reinforcing various components of the whole and isolating them from vulnerabilities in other components. Ideology is the mental mechanism by which people can suspend rational thought when they come to some subject matter and jump to a short-circuited conclusion or even a simple axiom or rule which in their minds overrides anything else. Ideology is the successful reaction to rational thought, as it handicaps people from even questioning the lie successfully to begin with. Not only is there a ready explanation waiting in the form of the lie, but when confronted with the truth, people who have been indocrinated ideologically are conditioned to suspend the application of reason and thus preempt even the possibility of threatening the lie, much less ever having to actually judge the lie against the truth. With a robust ideology, the nature, extent, and incredibility of the lies told can grow to almost absurd proportions, as we have seen in countless historical examples. Ideology is also, by its very nature, usable as a strong innoculant against competing ideologies as well. Ideology is the meta-lie, because once it has been passed on, the very mechanism by which falsehoods are uncovered and truth judged are subverted. And we have seen that the most powerful ideologies have enabled enormously powerful regimes to conquer whole continents, to muster people into unthinkable labors, to drive people into previously unimaginable misery, danger, or outrageous acts without the slightest bit of objection. Ideologies are so potent that some of them have survived largely unchanged for dozens of generations, for centuries. The competition between ideologies often takes on a scale and ferocity even beyond that of the regimes that might have put them forth- and indeed ideologies have often outlived the regimes that developed them, and become such a force that subsequent regimes have had to themselves conform, at least in appearance, to the expectations and dictates of the ideology created by a previous regime. Only an immense and sustained invalidation over a period of generations is sufficient to defuse an ideology and purge it from a population. Individuals there always have been who are not conquered by ideology, but they have also been quite consistently incapable of opening the eyes of their fellow men- ideology is too powerful for that to work in all but a few borderline cases- and indeed some of the most clever of those with open eyes have sought to use ideology for their own advantage instead of struggle against it.